Is it conceivable that colonists/astronauts on a long term mission in a low gravity environment might use a low dose of an anabolic steroid (such as Equipoise) to prevent extreme atrophy in their musculature? It's a hypothetical for SF (2250 AD), and a black market dealer is running it out to the colonists on Ganymede and Europa.

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    $\begingroup$ This question might be better asked on Worldbuilding where they often use speculative scenarios and real world science to help build your world. $\endgroup$
    – Edlothiad
    Feb 16, 2018 at 12:55
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding Mike! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Feb 16, 2018 at 13:35
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not flagging this, but is this really appropriate for WorldBuilding, rather than a medical stack/site? It would seem to require understanding the effects on the human body of the steroid, and whether that effect is truly a counter for the problems of reduced G. $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2018 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ I think this is a great question and apparently it does work to some extent, however you should know that research in those areas is sketchy at best. We do not have long-term data and the short-term data is always for a very small sample size and under very specific circumstances. I wouldn't trust it tbo. You can, however, always say that you have substance x241c that prevents all symptoms. In 230 years we could've figured out something like that. If you truly want 0-g spaceships and don't want to do this via exercise or FES or something, just make up your own "anabolic steroid" $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Feb 16, 2018 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ without exercise steroids cause people to become overweight, so steroids would make them even less fit. Steroids just increase growth, without a stimulus to grow muscle the body grows fat instead. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 16, 2018 at 18:15

3 Answers 3


Anabolic steroids cause more long term damage to the body's ability to regulate it's own hormones than the value gained in muscle growth. When on steroids your body ceases producing those hormones all together, the longer you are on them the longer it takes your body to begin producing those hormones on its own again. After long enough use your body's ability to regulate its hormone levels can be permanantly damaged. Anabolic steroids also cause damage to major organs like the liver, heart, and kidneys. To put it simply, steroids to combat micro gravity muscle atrophy is like drinking to cure depression.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree steroids aren't good for your health (elevated liver enzymes and so on) but maybe if the mission were only two or three years? One would have to think of the cost: benefit ratio. Pro bodybuilders abuse them for much longer periods, probably at the expense of shaving ten years off of their life. I'm considering the answer below, but one aspect of character/plot development for a semi major antagonist is his hope to earn a sizable income from this black market operation, so if the problem of atrophy is resolved without steroid smuggling, I'll have to juggle the plot around a bit. $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2018 at 2:21
  • $\begingroup$ I used to work as a fitness instructor and was around guys using "the sauce" quite a bit. Every single one of them were suffering some sort of severe health issue by the 18 month mark. Long term use of steroids is pretty much 6 months. At lifting and body building competitions you just see walls of muscle, you don't see the kidney and liver failure or the 6 separate breast removal surgeries those guys are hiding underneath. Not to mention psychological side effects that would get any prospective astronaut grounded permanently. $\endgroup$
    – TCAT117
    Feb 17, 2018 at 2:48

In the spirit of pure speculation, I would imagine that the side-effects of prolonged steroid use (even low dosage) would be less than ideal due to stress on other internal systems. A better approach might be a form of electrical stimulation similar to what researchers have tried with coma patients. I imagine this tech would be built into clothing to both provide the electrical stimulation and perhaps a degree of resistance to challenge the muscles through natural motion. One might imagine that whatever nano connection these suits maintain with the body could fitted to dispense some form of directed steroid just as it might deliver some form of painkiller in times of stress.
For me, however, the bigger question is why would a drug that is essentially designed to prevent muscle atrophy be distributed as black market contraband? I would imagine that between suits, diet and exercise routines the atrophy issue would be part of daily life (assuming wakefulness and not stasis / hibernation). Black market items would be more about recreationals or something designed to overclock the body (regardless of long term effects).

  • $\begingroup$ Great idea, I may implement it! $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2018 at 2:13

As already suggested by other users long use of steroids cause permanent harm to the body and its not worth, considering many pro bodybuilders die at age of 25 or so.

A better option would be increasing the nucleai in the muscle cells, this way your astronauts will have an easier time maintaing muscle with exercises.

Nucleus overload is permant and can be obtained either by overtraining muscles with incredibly low rest and high volume at low intensity for months or years or the faster option would be using just one single dose of growth hormones(this is also why steroid users can never be considered natural again even after stoping the use of steroids).


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